Saturday, November 10, 2007
Meet Abu Abed: the US's new ally against al-Qaida
On a recent Friday morning time in West Baghdad, 20 of Hajji Abu Abed's work force were shifting their feet nervously in the dust-covered pace outside his house as they waited for their leader to emerge.
The men, immature and well armed with Kalashnikovs, handguns and manus grenades, were wearing the favoured frock for militiamen in Republic Of Iraq these days: greenish disguise ranger uniforms decorated with spots of United States regular army kit - a pouch on one man, webbing on another, a cap here, dark glasses there, a few flak catcher jackets between them. Some dullard the insignia of Iraki regular army officers.
Around noon, a combatant came running from the big house across the street and shouted: "The Hajji is coming!"
A pick-up truck came speeding into the yard, followed by respective barroom autos packed with fighters. In the dorsum of the pick-up, somes adult male with a bandana swung a large machine gun on its mounting. The great Fe gate opened and Hajji Abu Abed emerged - a squat, chubby chap with close-cropped hair and a thin goatee and moustache. Half his human face was covered with big wraparound sunglasses, a handgun was tucked into his belt and a short machine gun dangled in his hand. Three guards ran in presence of him and jumped into a new Toyota saloon. With Sirens wailing and work force brandishing their guns in the air, the convoy drove the 50 meters from Hajji Abu Abed's house to his headquarters.
Abu Abed, a member of the insurrectionist Islamic Army, have recently go the commanding officer of the US-sponsored "Ameriya Knights". He is one of the new breed of Sunnite warlords who are being paid by the United States to struggle al-Qaida in Iraq. The Americans name their new allies Concerned Citizens.
It is a scheme that have worked well for the Americans, on paper at least. This week, the United States armed forces claimed it had forced the extremist grouping al-Qaida inch Mesopotamia out of Bagdad altogether, and cut the figure of homicides in the metropolis by 80%. Major General Chief Joseph Fil, commanding officer of United States military units in Baghdad, said: "The Iraki people have got decided that they've had it up to here with violence."
Critics of the program state they are simply creating powerful new strongmen who run their ain prison houses and armies, and who eventually will turn on each other.
A senior Sunnite sheikh, whose folk is joining the new confederation with the Americans against al-Qaida, told me in Capital Of Lebanon that it was a simple equation for him. "It's just a manner to acquire arms, and to be a legalised security military unit to be able to stand up against Shiah reserves and to forestall the Iraki regular army and police force from entering their areas," he said.
"The Americans lost hope with an Iraki authorities that is both sectarian and dominated by militias, so they are paying for locals to struggle al-Qaida. It will make a series of warlords.
"It's wish person who brought true true true cats to struggle rats, establish himself with too many cats and brought domestic dogs to struggle the cats. Now they necessitate elephants."
A former intelligence military officer and a pious Sunni, Hajji Abu Abed have the aura of a Mafia don. And for Abu Abed, like a don, connexions are everything. His business office is decorated with images of him hugging United States officers, including the senior commanding officer in Iraq, General Saint David Petraeus, and a Captain Cosper.
On Abu Abed's desk stand ups a glass box containing a achromatic suede horse cavalry chapeau and a missive proclaiming him an honorary United States cavalryman. In a Ag framework is a image of him with a female translator in military uniform.
As the Hajji settled into his office, a long line of work force formed at the door. From a little bag tucked into his belt he dispensed smatterings of Iraki Yemeni dinars to his following as they filed through. He is the lone figure of authorization many of them have got seen for respective years.
One old adult male asked him for an electricity generator; another, carrying a big file, asked him about a United States building contract that he was promised. Two immature male children were seated next to him. One had brought him a leather ammo belt, and the other handed him the keys to a new pick-up truck Abu Abed had ordered.
The Americans pay him $400 (£200) a calendar month for each combatant he provides, he said, and he had 600 registered. His work force are awful by his courage, his piousness and his psychoneurotic rages.
Like many other insurrectionist groups, the Muslim Army had an uneasy confederation with al-Qaida. On one manus they needed fiscal support; on the other, al-Qaida became a burden, bringing upon the Sunnis the wrath of Shiah reserves and decease squads who started an organised political campaign of sectarian cleaning against the Sunnis in revenge against al-Qaida's mass violent death of Shia.
"We lost our area," Abu Abed said. "It became a conflict zone between al-Qaeda and the Shiah militias."
So when a outstanding Iraki Sunnite politician who had lived in the United States returned to Republic Of Iraq last twelvemonth and started direct negotiation between the Muslim Army commanding officers from his folk and the Americans, Abu Abed was prepared to listen. "A twelvemonth ago we reached the determination that we needed to struggle al-Qaida," he said. "I knew I couldn't struggle them confront to confront - they had more than work force and weapons. So I started assemblage intelligence on their commanders. I knew them all very well."
The turning point came last year, when al-Qaida declared the constitution of the Muslim State of Republic Of Iraq and attempted to enforce itself on other insurrectionist groups. In one case in West Baghdad, they demanded 25% of all the booty from other insurrectionist groups' operations. The Muslim Army refused to pay and direct confrontations ensued.
"The organic structures piled up in the streets," Abu Abed said. "Most of the people had to go forth the country and flee."
The Hajji and his work force used the same techniques they mastered as insurrectionists against their former allies. Sitting on a large couch in his office, he recounted the events. "When we decided to assail we started with assassinations. We killed six [al-Qaida] commanding officers in the first hebdomad of fighting," he said. "We would drive in unmarked cars, shoot a commanding officer dead and then flee. At first, no 1 knew who was killing them."
Soon an unfastened warfare started. Of the 100s who pledged to struggle al-Qaida, lone 13 actually stuck with Abu Abed. These days, almost all his following claim to have got been one of the 13. "When the Americans intervened, we went out with them on missions, leading them to the Qaida fighters," he said.
He pulled his handgun out and showed it to me. It was a Glock, supplied by the United States to Iraki security forces. "This belonged to the commanding officer of al-Qaida here," he said. "They called him the White Person Lion. I killed him and got his gun."
Our conversation was interrupted by the reaching of a large adult male named Bakr with a bandoleer of slugs over his chest. He squatted next to Abu Abed, laid his large BKC machine gun down and spoke to him conspiratorially, covering his oral cavity with his manus like a schoolgirl.
Bakr was Abu Abed's caput of intelligence. "I was told that person from al-Qaida is in the area," Bakr said. "We will travel out, develop some intelligence and then bust the house."
The lone vehicles in the streets belonged to our screaming convoy. A few stores were unfastened and people walked past carrying plastic shopping bags. All around us were the hints of battle: volcanic craters in the route from improvised bombs, frontages pockmarked with slug holes, a heap of debris that had once been a building.
Ameriya is a closed zone, surrounded by high concrete walls. Only walkers are allowed through the two Iraki regular army checkpoints out of the suburb. The "knights" are the lone authorization inside.
When we arrived at the house where the alleged al-Qaida commanding officer was hiding, Bakr was already in action. He was dragging a plump adult male into a car, grabbing his cervix with one manus and his BKC machine gun with the other.
The horrified adult male begged them not to take him. "By Allah, I didn't state Qaida is better than you, you are our brothers, just allow me go!" A gunslinger kicked the adult male and pushed him into a car.
The suspect's brother, still in his pyjamas, pleaded, and women in nighties stood in the street wailing and begging the gunmen to let go of him.
The gunmen pointed their guns at the people and pushed them back. A immature combatant carrying an old British sub-machine gun fired a explosion into the air.
Abu Abed walked into the scuffle. The detained adult male was not the target. Person had overheard him saying Abu Abed's work force were "worse than al-Qaida" after Bakr's work force raided the house.
Furious at the insult, Abu Abed aimed his gun at the brother. "Al-Qaida is better than us, huh? Did you bury when the organic structures were piled in the streets?"
Some neighbors intervened, and the adult male was released. His blood brother grabbed him by the arm and pushed him inside.
Abu Abed, shaking his caput and waving his gun, walked back to his car, murmuring "Al-Qaida, better than us..."
He stopped in mid-stride and turned to bear down with his work force back into the house. They pushed the gate unfastened and ran inside fire their arms in the air. In the dark kitchen, they grabbed the adult male again, pushed him to the flooring and kicked him. The women were screaming and crying. One of them pulled away her headscarf and wailed, holding on to the man's ripped shirt as Abu Abed and the gunmen dragged him out, kicking and slapping him. Other combatants fired their Kalashnikovs in the air. The adult male was shoved into a car, as was his brother.
Abu Abed, screaming and pointing his gun, charged at the crowd. "Qaida is better than me? I will demo you!"
He held his gun high and quoted al-Hajjaj, somes 7th-century ruler of Iraq, in a hoarse voice: "Oh, people of Iraq, I had come up to you with two swords, 1 is for clemency which I have got left back in the desert, and this one" - he pointed his gun at the crowd -"is the blade of oppression, which I kept in my hand."
The convoy drove off, Sirens blaring, combatants hanging out of the auto windows.
After we had settled again in his office, Abu Abed told me of his expansive dreams. "Ameriya is just the beginning. After we complete with al-Qaida here, we will turn toward our chief enemy, the Shiah militias. I will liberate Jihad [a Sunnite country next to Ameriya taken over by the Mahdi army] then Saidiya and the whole of West Baghdad."
Hours later the Ameriya Knights were on the streets again. There were rumors that Iraq's Sunnite vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, was visiting Ameriya for the first clip in two years. As we approached the masjid where he was believed to be praying, the street was blocked by his guards.
"Open the route for the Ameriya Knights," yelled one of Abu Abed's men.
"I can't, I don't have got orders," replied a gunman. "Do you cognize who I am? I am the commanding officer of Ameriya," Abu Abed screamed at the vice-president's commanding officer of guards. "Who are you? Did you make bold to demo your human faces here before I kicked al-Qaida out? Even the Americans with their army tanks couldn't come up before I liberated Ameriya." Bakr pointed his gun at the entourage. Guns were cocked on all sides.
"Abu Abed, we all cognize who you are, but this is the vice-president of Iraq."
"This is Ameriya, not Iraq! Here I rule, I am the commander, I can do certain that you won't demo your human faces here!"
"We are all Sunnite brothers. The Shiah reserves will be happy to see us fighting; we have got the same enemy," said the man.
"You are trying to claim my victory. I will demo you!" Abu Abed pushed the military officer and went back to his car.
That night, Abu Abed decided to assail another grouping of Ameriya Knights under his general command. He suspected their commander, Abu Omar, was allied with the vice-president's Muslim party, which have got been trying to command the Sunnite area.
"I have to demo them there is one commander. If the Americans don't like it, I will retreat my men," he told me. "Let's see if they can struggle al-Qaida alone." By sunset, his work force were gathered in presence of the house again. He distributed other guns and he carried an other scattergun with his machine gun.
All the manner to Abu Omar's headquarters he was humming an Muslim poetry in a beautiful voice. "Oh prophet, how beautiful your visible light is, oh oracle of God."
Abu Omar's gunmen, thinking Abu Abed was there for an inspection, took away the spirals of razor wire and opened the gates. Then Abu Abed's Knights charged for the 3rd clip that day, this clip accompanied by gunfire. Bullets whizzed in their baffled manner and reddish tracers flashed against the dark bluish sky.
Abu Omar's work force were rounded up. Some were set in pick-up trucks, others were squeezed in auto boots. By the visible light of headlamps, Abu Abed's work force looted weapons, ammo boxes and radios.
One terrified kid was brought for questioning. "Where are Abu Omar's sniper rifles?" Abu Abed asked him.
"I don't know," replied the boy.
"Look, this caput of yours, I will cut it off and set it on your thorax if you don't state where the guns are by tomorrow." He tried to set his scattergun in the boy's oral cavity but his work force restrained him.
Back at Abu Abed's HQ, the work force were set into cells. Work Force in US-supplied blueness uniforms were being jailed by work force in US-supplied greenness uniforms.
An American officer, Captain Cosper, visited Abu Abed that night. He sat in the business office trying to do sense of what was going on. "They [the Concerned Citizens] are not allowed to detain people or behavior raids," he told me.
In a nearby room, two blindfolded work force were being questioned by Abu Abed's men. An American soldier set his caput inside, watched for a few secs and left. "They won't make anything to them while we're here," he said.
When Capt Cosper had gone, the work force were beaten up and taken to the cell. Later, 1 of Abu Abed's work force drove up and shouted: "I brought another one." His human face was shining with happiness.
"Where is he?" asked a captain.
"In the boot," replied the gunman. "I establish him standing in the street behind Abu Omar's building."
"Are you sure you didn't capture Mudhar? I asked him to guard the back."
"No, no, I am certain he is one of them," said the fighter. The captain pulled out a shaking adult male from the boot like a prestidigitator pulling out a rabbit. "Ah Mudhar, I am sorry," said the captain. "I told you he is one of us."
The combatant kissed Mudhar twice and said he was bad but Mudhar should seek not to look so leery in future.
Mudhar, still shaky, looked at him. Then, confused and angry, walked away.